Seven Years of (Social) Enterprise

Sam Conniff is a Social Enterprise Ambassador. (Thanks for the correction Nick) That means he talks about what it is like to manage a social enterprise. The funny thing is how much it is like running ANY enterprise.

He has just written a blog posting fuelled by his reflection s during the process of moving office after 7 years. As he sorts through the debris that has collected he realises how many of his (then spectacular) ideas were anything but. He recognises the values of patience, perseverance and flexibility as well as planning and insight.

He talks about how the private sector are beginning to catch on to the importance of the triple line ( i have blogged about this before – the dangers of the for profit sector recognising just how much money they can make when they provide valuable public services cost effectively and manage a motivated, enthusiastic and rewarded workforce). This reflection is particularly heartfelt for me as seem to have spent much of the last month working with third sector organisations that had slashed management overheads to the bone in the mistaken belief that this would somehow generate more value for the funders. In fact it generates a workforce that feels undervalued and exploited. Sure, cut ‘bad’ management out completely – but invest in good management because that’s the way to get high performing teams who love their work (social enterprise or not).

You can read the full, frank post here.

Engaging Communities in Enterprise

  • ‘I just wanted to say thank you very much for the workshop, I thought it was absolutely brilliant and made me think on a deeper level of what community is all about. The book is great and very inspiring so thanks for that too. I had a lot of fun and it wasn’t one of those meetings where we were talked at it was very interactive and I really look forward to the next one’
  • ‘good networking event’
  • ‘good style of delivery’
  • ‘good selection of talk and exercises – kept my attention’
  • ‘met new people; found out about other organisations; loved the opportunity to share and learn from others’
  • ‘excellent delivery and content’
  • ‘the whole day was very good :-)’
  • ‘liked the style and format; good exercises and examples’
  • ‘built rapport and gained more info on partners’
  • ‘opportunities to network and see the LEGI bigger picture’
  • ‘presentations very good.  re-assured about things I did in the past.  learned about innovative ways to deal with disaffected’
  • ‘good mix in terms of style and delivery – light hearted but meaningful tasks – theoretical and practical
  • ‘informative – with interesting ways of getting the points across’
  • ‘good networking, meeting other LEGI partners, more information about enterprise, the activities were educational’
  • ‘liked the interaction, presentations, venue, networking and the presenters’
  • ‘liked the mix of activities – fun and engaging’
  • ‘liked the process model and the stages, Boyatzis Model and the group work, the learning from the videos was good and the interaction with others’
  • ‘I liked the exercises that put us out of our comfort zones’
  • ‘I see that many people could really benefit from both you and Anne as I have to admit that I have been on so many workshops and training days but I have to say yours was the best by far’
  • ‘I liked Anne, I think she is very knowledgeable and is a great presenter. She thinks outside the box and  stretches other peoples thinking. I have just been sharing my day with [colleagues] and telling them how fantastic the workshop was. I would like to include the others from our team if possible onto your next planned workshop as its important that we can all learn as much as possible to benefit the people that we try and reach everyday within our jobs’

This was just some of the feedback from the first time we ran our ‘Engaging Communities in Enterprise’ workshop.

I am delighted to say that we  plan to run it again in London on September 26th.  You can find out more and book your place here.

I run the event with Anne Sherriff.  Anne has a strong background in regeneration, in particular community engagement, communications and marketing, and developing effective partnerships. She joined re’new in 1996, having previously worked for Bradford City Challenge and before that the Community Development Foundation.

Initially appointed to lead and co-ordinate Leeds’ SRB2 funded East Bank regeneration programme, Anne’s role with re’new has developed to now encompass overall responsibility for all of the company’s work throughout East Leeds as well as leading the development of renew’s neighbourhood management and community activity. Anne also coordinates re’new’s corporate marketing and communications activity, and leads on the development of new business across the Leeds city region.

The East Bank regeneration programme encompassed housing and environmental renewal, economic development and social and community development. Throughout, the ability to engage successfully with local residents was key to the success of the regeneration programme.

Forming and sustaining effective partnerships – between agencies and with local communities – is fundamental to successful intervention at neighbourhood level. Anne developed and led the East Bank partnership and has subsequently coordinated the formation of the to’gether Partnership. This is a unique multi-agency approach to solving inner-city problems in east Leeds based on shared responsibility among public agencies and buy-in by local residents, including developing a ‘residents network’ of local people who have endorsed the to’gether Partnership, currently numbering over 1000 and still growing.

Anne has been involved in community development and community engagement for nearly thirty years, as a practitioner, trainer and manager. Committed to developing innovative and effective solutions to local issues, and to ‘joining up the dots’ between disparate interventions and approaches, she is an effective and creative strategic leader whilst retaining a pragmatic approach to getting things done. Anne is an experienced Investment in Excellence facilitator committed to enhancing personal and professional development opportunities for those working in or with local communities.

121s – Common Objections

When I am talking with managers about the benefits of doing 121s they usually resist the idea and offer a range of objections:

  1. I don’t need 121s – I speak with my staff ALL the time!
  2. I would never have enough time to meet with each member of staff for half an hour every week.
  3. What would we talk about if we met every week?
  4. My staff would feel that I was micro-managing them – they just want to get on with the job
  5. My staff aren’t interested in strategy or otherwise engaging – they just want to do a good job

I don’t need 121s – I speak with my staff ALL the time!

It is true that a lot of managers spend a lot of time talking with staff.  The conversations are spontaneous, unplanned, unstructured, unfocused and often unproductive.  They promote a conversation culture rather that is characterised by high levels of interruptions – ‘Sorry to disturb you but can an I just have a quick word with about….’ Managerial time is freely available and therefore barely valued.  Prioritisation by staff is poor and managers are often diverted from more important tasks as they feel obliged to respond to staff requests for help.  Such managers usually have gaping holes in their performance when it comes to areas such as innovation, creativity, strategy and planning as they are too busy ‘mole-whacking’.

I would never have enough time to meet with each member of staff for half an hour every week

This translates direclty to ‘I have more important things to do than work in planned structured way with staff on a 121 basis’.   It also translates to ‘People are not our most important asset and therefore I can afford to neglect them’.

Company costs per full-time employee in the UK now stand at £97,122.  Such costs typically include:

  • pay and bonuses,
  • employers’ national insurance payments and pension contributions,
  • office accommodation costs, and
  • central costs, which incorporate elements such as HR and finance departments.

What other assets do you manage that cost this much to keep in the game – that, if they feel disgruntled, devalued or otherwise fed up can literally just get up and walk out the door?  You really think that investing 30 minutes a week in them to keep them engaged, challenged, informed, recognised and valued won’t give you a great return on your investment.  NB See above – structured 121 time is very different to ‘talking with them all of the time’.

What would we talk about if we met every week?

This one comes from managers where the culture is about delivering this year what we delivered last year but incrementally better.  No-one is thinking or exploring, looking for better ways to skin the cat/butter the parsnips etc .  No one is learning stuff every week that is relevant to improving the product, service or processes of work.  Expect people to make things better every week and ask them what they have done every week to contribute to making things better.  It also comes from managers that have ‘values on the website’ but don’t see their role in reinforcing them in practice on a weekly basis.

My staff would feel that I was micro-managing them

This comes from managers who don’t understand that most people want to have a connection to work.  They want to be engaged and to matter.  They want to have a chance to give their best.  They don’t want to be alienated and cynical. Although if you don’t work with them frequently on a 121 basis they will be!

They also don’t understand the difference between dabbling in the detail (micro-managing) and unleashing potential (the number 1 priority of the high performance manager).

My staff aren’t interested in strategy or otherwise engaging

This comes from managers who have tried to engage staff but failed.  Therefore in order to maintain their own self – image (I am a good manager) they have to believe that staff are not interested.  Do you REALLY have staff who aren’t interested in the future of their employer and how they can help to make it better?

So what is your excuse?

Connecting with a Vision

This post first appeared on my other blog ‘Enterprise and Entrepreneurship in the Community‘ but I have reproduced it here because it contains some insights on working with ‘Vision’ that are relevant to the progressive manager.  Apologies to those of you who have got it for the second time!

Our Vision for Leeds is an internationally competitive European city at the heart of a prosperous region where everyone can enjoy a high quality of life.

Leeds Initiative Vision for Leeds – 2004 2020

That must seem like a pretty distant vision for many Leeds residents.  For the tens of thousands that are living on incapacity benefits.  For those who have no job.  For those who work in the third sector and are more interested in social justice than international competitiveness.  For parents who are struggling to raise and educate their children.  For pensioners. For migrants and refugees.

But the problem is not with the vision per se.  The problem lies with the capacity available to help a very wide range of people and communities to connect with it.  To understand why it is relevant to them and how it can help them to make progress on their agenda.  How it can help them find a sense of belonging in a Leeds community that is striving to make ‘progress’.

For a vision to be effective a wide range of stakeholders have to be able to connect with it and make sense of it in their own context, and then to use it to leverage action – to make things happen.  Otherwise it is just words.  I suspect it is no accident that this ‘Vision for Leeds’ appeals so directly to the white collar community, to the developers and the investors.  To those that have power shall be given more.

Visions can help to pull us towards a more attractive future, but only if they are relevant to us and are dripping with possibilities for action.

In the world of organisational and business development the ‘Vision backlash’ has started.  Instead of dreaming of distant possibilities those leading the backlash ask:

  • ‘What is it that we are on the verge of becoming?’,
  • ‘How, at this time, is it possible that we could change?’

This ‘emergence’ based on a process of ‘presencing’ (understanding the ‘here and now’ and then acting to tip the balance in favour of progress) honours the past as much as the future. It ensures that the future is rooted in the strengths and cultures of the past.  It encourages placemaking based on history as much as on the future.  And this matters because it is the history that has shaped us all.  Our cultures, our psyches our potentials and our preferences.  Development that honours who we are, what we have become and what we believe it is possible for us to be.

Perhaps we should compliment the Vision with a real understanding of what we have the potential to become – not by 2020 – but right now.

How to Manage Whelmers

A whelmer is someone neither overwhelms us with their professional expertise, enthusiasm and commitment, nor underwhelms us with their sheer incompetence.

They inhabit the middle ground of mediocrity.

Whelmers are a problem because they act as cultural magnets and performance benchmarks.  They are the experts in knowing just what has to be done to be seen as ‘acceptable’.  To be given a quiet life.  And a salary.

So what should we do when we recognise that we have a whelmer in our midst?

The first thing to do is to look in the mirror.  The person you see is the one who has allowed a human being with energy, enthusiasm, talent and passion (you did check for those things when you recruited them didn’t you) turn into a whelmer.  In order to change their response to your management style, you need to change the way you manage.  Keep on doing what you have always done and you will keep on getting what you always got.

The first thing to do is to invest time in building a relationship with the whelmer.  Let them know that you know they are capable of giving more and ask what you need to do (or stop doing) to help them give of their best.  Don’t just do this once.  Keep doing it.  Regularly. Not just at annual reviews but at least monthly, preferably weekly.  Let them know that you value them and that you want to see them doing well.  Make it clear that you EXPECT MORE.

Secondly focus on the behaviours that they exhibit that make you think ‘whelmer’.

  • Is it that they never accept delegation?
  • Never volunteer to work on projects?
  • Hardly contribute to meetings?
  • Rarely smile or express a positive reaction?
  • seldom go ‘the extra mile’

Get specific about the behaviours and then use feedback to make sure that the whelmer knows exactly what they are doing that causes you, and no doubt others, to be ‘whelmed’ by their contribution.  Give the feedback freely and consistently and make it clear that you expect them change.  Feedback must be given properly for it to be effective though!

Thirdly spend some time understanding what they are looking for from the organisation.  Most whelmers join with high hopes and every intention to be an overwhelmer.  But as ambition is thwarted they slip into the ranks of the whelmers.

Maslow is relevant here.

Most whelmers wanted to achieve something of importance.  They not only wanted a salary and a sense of belonging but they also wanted to make the world a better place when they chose to work for you.  But you have failed them.  They have recognised that they are unable to achieve this higher purpose in the organisation (no doubt due to resource restrictions or politics) and so have given up on this higher purpose and settled for the monthly salary and a quiet and unspectacular working life.  Often the whelmers will do their self actualising outside of work where they will show incredible passion, skills and enthusiasm for anything from stamp collecting to binge drinking.

So re-visit their hopes and aspirations for working for you.  Talk to them.  Re-kindle their belief that they can achieve something worthwhile at work and then re-double your efforts through feedback, coaching and delegation to give them the opportunities that they need to be a real force for progress in the organisation.

By helping a whelmer step up to being an overwhelmer not only will you and they have a much better time at work but also productivity is likely to increase by 25-40%.

Connecting with a Vision for Leeds

Our Vision for Leeds is an internationally competitive European city at the heart of a prosperous region where everyone can enjoy a high quality of life.

Leeds Initiative Vision for Leeds – 2004 2020

That must seem like a pretty distant vision for many Leeds residents.  For the tens of thousands that are living on incapacity benefits.  For those who have no job.  For those who work in the third sector and are more interested in social justice than international competitiveness.  For parents who are struggling to raise and educate their children.  For pensioners. For migrants and refugees.

But the problem is not with the vision per se.  The problem lies with the resources available to help a very wide range of people and communities to connect with it.  To understand why it is relevant to them and how it can help them to make progress on their agenda.  How it can help them find a sense of belonging in a Leeds community that is striving to make ‘progress’.

For a vision to be effective a wide range of stakeholders have to be able to connect with it and make sense of it in their own context, and then to use it to leverage action – to make things happen.  Otherwise it is just words.  I suspect it is no accident that this ‘Vision for Leeds’ appeals so directly to the white collar community, to the developers and the investors.  To those that have power shall be given more.

Visions can help to pull us towards a more attractive future, but only if they are relevant to us and are dripping with possibilities for action.

In the world of organisational and business development the ‘Vision backlash’ has started.  Instead of dreaming of distant possibilities those leading the backlash ask:

  • ‘What is it that we are on the verge of becoming?’,
  • ‘How, at this time, is it possible that we could change?’

This ’emergence’ based on a process of ‘presencing’ (understanding the ‘here and now’ and then acting to tip the balance in favour of progress) honours the past as much as the future. It ensures that the future is rooted in the strengths and cultures of the past.  It encourages placemaking based on history as much as on the future.  And this matters because it is the history that has shaped us all.  Our cultures, our psyches our potentials and our preferences.  Development that honours who we are, what we have become and what we believe it is possible for us to be.

Perhaps we should compliment the Vision with a real understanding of what we have the potential to become – not by 2020 – but right now.

Enterprise and Community Development

Peter Block has been an incredibly powerful writer and thinker on development and change for decades, primarily in the context of business and organisation.  I am a big fan of his work.

His latest book is called “Community – The Structure of Belonging” and it  provides both practical and philosophical insights in to community development.

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Praise for Peter Block’s “Community: The Structure of Belonging”

“From the person who gave us the best book written on business stewardship comes the best book on how to transform the places where we live, work, and play into authentic, effective communities. Some of Peter Block’s conclusions may surprise you, but this compelling book is a must for all who love the places we call home enough to rethink our approach to building and maintaining community.”
–Dennis Bakke, CEO, Imagine Schools, Cofounder and CEO Emeritus, AES Corporation, and author of Joy at Work

“Every earnest public servant, every volunteer, every disillusioned citizen, every civic leader, and every community activist or businessperson who truly want to make their communities better should read this book. It can serve as a guide or manual, but Community at its heart is a book of questions, and Peter gently and persistently reminds us that we are the answers.”
–James Keene, President, Alliance for Innovation and Western Director, International City/County Management Association

“In this wonderfully practical book, Peter Block defines the nature of a community with manageable dimensions, creative directions, and hopeful possibilities. His methods lead us to a restoration of the joy of a genuine common life.”
–John McKnight, Professor of Education and Social Policy, and Codirector, Asset-Based Community Development Institute, Northwestern University

“Peter Block clearly identifies the essential ingredients, qualities, questions, atmosphere. and actions needed to create and build vital communities filled with possibility, generosity, accountability, and deep engagement. Outstanding in its relevance, practicality, and clarity.”
–Angeles Arrien, PhD, cultural anthropologist and author of The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom

“This book is more than practical advice on execution of theory; it is a spiritual primer for the building up of community and transforming hope that we so desperately need in today’s world. Peter has touched us once again in that place we call `soul'”.
–Clint Kemp, Founding Pastor, New Providence Community Church

“Peter’s work has become the cornerstone of how our police department has developed over the years. What we have pleasantly discovered is that the more our capacity grows to work in partnership with each other, the more our capacity to serve our community is enhanced.”
–Michael Butler, Chief of Police, Longmont, Colorado

“After being engaged for many years with transformations in the U.S., Latin America, and Africa, it is exciting to find a practical and deep methodology that integrates great ideas and points at new applications. Peter’s book is critical for anyone concerned about reenergizing the quality of life in our workplaces and in our communities.”
–Steve Zaffron, CEO, the Vanto Group, a Landmark Education Company

You can order the book online here.

If you have already read it perhaps you can share your thoughts?

Or else recommend your favourite books on enterprise and or community development.

Some Great Enterprise Lessons

This 7 minute video from the US has some very powerful lessons about enterprise and entrepreneurship.

Especially when they talk about the nature of their business plan!

Enjoy!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDAtNgjTRgM]

A Sirolli Primer

I am a big fan of the work of Ernesto Sirolli.  He has been working on encouraging enterprise, primarily in disadvantaged communities for over 30 years now and has built up a wealth of experience and knowledge on the field.  He has also developed a proprietary methodology called Enterprise Facilitation® that is taught to communities by the Sirolli Institute.  He has visited Leeds on a couple of occasions now and talked with members of the Sharing the Success programme and others interested in his work.

How much of what he teaches do we believe is relevant and valuable to our work in encouraging enterprise?

What aspects of his teaching do we choose to ignore?  Why?

What aspects have we learned from and put into practice?  What results have we got?

If you have not heard Ernesto speak there are several good places to start to learn about his ideas.  One of the best is this web page from New Zealand.

BizzFizz which is operated by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) is a very similar type of programme.  Links to both Bizzfizz and Sirolli can be found in the sidebar to the right.